just be here

I am a highly impatient person.  No, really.  I'm not kidding.  You don't know anyone more impatient than I.

In many ways, my impatience is considerably annoying.  Marcus and Alex are both extremely patient people, so thank heavens, they take me in stride, but still:  it can't be easy for them.  And as I get older, I'm becoming even more curmudgeonly.

In some ways, though, being impatient has worked out in my favour:  many major decisions in my life that turned out well, happened because my impatience compelled me to get them going.  Decisions like going to law school, marrying Marcus, adopting our daughter, writing The Beauty of Different  -- all were made within 48 hours of so of me actually beginning the process of making them happen.  (Well, technically, except for marrying Marcus.  I didn't actually do that until 6 months from the day he asked me to marry him.  But he asked me to marry him 18 days after our first date, and I immediately said yes, so I think this still qualifies to be on my Let's-Do-This Impatience List.  Possibly at the very top.)

Nonetheless, over the last few weeks, I've had a few signs in my life that are telling me that perhaps it's time to chill a bit.  The first came in the form of this:

This, my friends, is a Hasselblad 501C medium format film camera that Marcus bought for me for Christmas.  It is a beautiful machine -- apparently in mint condition, even though it's about 18 years old.  Marcus knew that I love the idea of having a medium format film camera (I said as much when we were in Bath), so I was literally quivering with excitement when I opened the package.  I can't wait to see what this camera can do.

What I didn't expect was what an exercise in patience this camera is proving to be.  First, I had to buy film for the camera, which isn't exactly available in your neighbourhood CVS pharmacy (it takes 120 film).  So I ordered some online, and waited 5 days for it to be delivered.  Then I had to learn how to load the camera (how did we do these things before YouTube?).  Then, since I don't have a light meter, I had to meter using my Nikon, and then mirror the settings on the Hassie, which took a moment, because I had to learn how to change the settings.  Then I had to aim and focus on my subject, and since the Hassie doesn't have automatic focus, I had to make. sure. the. focus. was. perfect.  And perfect it had to be, since I only had one shot at getting it right.

And then?  I couldn't see what I shot.  Because, of course, this is film -- there's no screen on the back of this machine, so who knows if I got the image in focus, or framed the shot properly, or even if I loaded the film the right way.  Worse?  I have to use the entire roll of film before I could even begin to think about doing whatever it takes to disclose whether or not I know how to use this thing.

So finally, after a couple of days, I used up my first roll of film.  Then I had to learn how to take the film out of the camera.  Then I began searching for a place in Houston that actually processes this kind of film (and as of this moment, I've only found one).  Then yesterday, when I called to make sure that they were open so I could drop the film off?  They were closed for the holiday.

It's enough to send me into fetal position, rocking and mumbling quietly.

But then came the second sign that perhaps I need to chill: as I was pulling myself together, I came across this post from my sweet friend Shauna James Ahern, all about going quiet. I particularly loved this part:

"It’s the bleak dark winter. Starting the year in January, when the light is weak and the cold air sharp, has always seemed so wrong to me. This is the winding-down time, the slowest time of the year.

And yet, every magazine article and blog post right now is about Improvement! New Start! Green smoothies, kale salads, and a clear denunciation of who we have been in the past year. Organize yourself now! Most magazine’s covers this month read: lose weight, clear yourself of clutter, improve your memory, get your financial life in order, and be happy now! How is that last one possible when we’re so busy bustling, doing all the things needed to become a new person?

I don’t want to become a new person. I just want to be here."


(My father calls these sorts of messages that seem to come out of the blue to teach you something "Spirit Taps."  The words above felt like a quick, sharp one, right upside my head.)

Admittedly, I'm as guilty as the next person about rushing to get everything done this time of year (you don't want to know how much work I was doing behind the scenes last week when "I took time off from blogging").  But Shauna's so right:  there is something to be said about just being here.   Maybe these experiences with the Hassie are coming at just the exactly perfect moment in my life to force me to take moments to relax.  Chill.  Just be here.   This camera doesn't allow for grab-the-shot-delete-the-ones-you-don't-want-upload-process-blog-it-right-now-this-minute.  It's all about taking it slowly, mindfully, one step at a time.

Like life.  Like just this year, even.



One step at a time.



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Yesterday, I introduced gratitude.2012, a subscription-based newsletter and journey on which I'd love for you to join me - a way of practicing gratitude, learning photography, and helping the world a bit along the way.

(And after what I wrote above, I suspect I'll need to try to use the film camera to do quite a few of the exercises we'll be doing, to teach myself something about slowing down.)

You can read more about it here.  And if you've already signed up, thank you!  The following is a bit of blog jewelry for your site, if you'd like to spread the word.  Just cut and paste the HTML code below on the right into your blog sidebar, and the image on the left will automatically appear, winning you my undying gratitude for your letting people know about my little project.



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Song: Anotherloverholeinyohead by Prince. I came across this song last week for the first time in decades. It had 2 be played 4 U, U know?